React Native vs. Flutter: A Comparison

Cross-platform solutions are gaining popularity, with React Native and Flutter being the two leading market players. But what’s the difference between these two platforms?

React Native vs. Flutter: A Comparison
(Source: Software Engineering Daily)


Cross-platform solutions are gaining popularity, with React Native and Flutter being the two leading market players.


What’s the difference between React Native and Flutter? And what does it mean for app developers?

In the first part of our React Native and mobile app development series (React Native vs. Flutter: a comparison), we compare the two platforms – the features and benefits.

With various app building platforms, businesses want to learn the best solution for their app development needs. As businesses ask questions like ‘What’s the difference between React Native and Flutter? And which platform is best for my business?’ the difference between the two platforms is important for developers too.


Is React Native better than Flutter?
Is React Native or Flutter easier?
Will Flutter replace React Native?
What's the difference between Flutter and React Native?
Should I learn React Native or Flutter in 2021?


The above questions are just a few of the many questions developers are asking Google. While we are a React Native agency, we aim to give you a better (and nonbias) insight into these two app development platforms so that you can decide the answer for yourself.


Why is Mobile App Development Popular?

Why is Mobile App Development Popular?
(Source: iPraxa)


Almost everyone has a mobile phone, so the user base is massive. And these days, you can find an app for just about anything. However, when creating a mobile app, there are a few potential paths to explore.

Firstly, you could choose the native route – using specific software like Swift to create mobile apps or Kotlin to create Android apps. Typically, a native developer could have also used Xcode to build iOS apps and Android Studio to build Android apps.

Or, you could choose the cross-platform path and use React Native or Flutter. It’s also common for developers to use an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) like Visual Studio Code.


What is React Native?

What is React Native?
(Source: Winklix)


React Native is an open-source framework for building native applications created by Facebook. The codebase is essentially written in JavaScript – making it easier to create cross-platform applications. For JavaScript developers, React Native doesn’t require them to learn a completely new and unfamiliar language.

Most web developers have been using JavaScript for a long time. While mobile development is still pretty new, the industry has matured and expanded over the years. For web developers already using JavaScript, learning mobile app development using React Native won’t be as challenging.


React Native is an effective framework for:

  • Cross-platform development

  • Building mobile apps using JavaScript language

  • Developing apps for Android and iOS using a single codebase


History of React Native

  1. Summer 2013, React Native was released as an internal Facebook project

  2. January 2015, React Native 1 Preview was released at the React.js Conference

  3. March 2015, React Native was officially released at the F8 Conference


Following the official release, Facebook declared React Native ‘open for use and available on GitHub’. Up until today, React Native is continuing to be further improved and developed.


Popular Apps Made With React Native

  • Instagram (iOS and Android)

  • Facebook (iOS and Android)

  • Facebook Ads Manager (iOS and Android)

  • Skype (iOS and Android)


What is Flutter?

What is Flutter?
(Source: Medium)


Flutter is a cross-platform UI (User Interface) framework developed by Google. One of the major benefits of Flutter is that developers can create cross-platform applications using a single codebase, much like React Native.

Traditionally, if a business wanted to create an application compatible with web, mobile and desktop browsers, it would require more than one tool. But with Flutter, businesses don’t have to hire a web developer, app developer, and mobile developer for iOS and Android builds because Flutter is an all-in-one solution. Flutter enables cross-platform app development with both desktop and web support.


Flutter’s desktop support covers:

  • Developing desktop apps

  • App extensions


Flutter’s web support is most useful for:

  • PWA (Progressive Web Apps)

  • SPA (Single Page Applications)

  • Existing mobile applications


History of Flutter

  1. April 2018, Flutter beta 2 was released

  2. May to November 2018, Flutter releases previews followed by beta 1 and 2

  3. February to May 2019, Flutter 1.2 and 1.5 were released, followed by the web preview version

  4. July 2019, Flutter 1.7 was released

  5. September 2019, Flutter 1.9 was released


Popular Apps Made With Flutter

  • Google Ads (iOS and Android)

  • Groupon (iOS and Android)

  • Hamilton (iOS, Android and Website)


Key Differences Between React Native and Flutter

Key Differences Between React Native and Flutter
(Source: Kody Technolab)


React Native and Flutter share a few similarities but also contain qualities that prove them different from each other.

React Native uses JSX (JavaScript XML). Flutter uses the Dart programming language in its codebase. The common ground is that both languages are based on the C-style type of syntax, meaning React Native and Flutter are fundamentally alike when it comes to design.


Programming

JavaScript, React Native’s programming language, is dynamic by nature, meaning that you can change the values of data types. On the other hand, Dart, Flutter’s programming language, is dynamic and static, meaning that you can have the best of both worlds.

Static is typically considered safer, as it forces you to declare and use the correct data type. However, with JavaScript, it is possible to enforce more type safety by using TypeScript instead, which is a strict syntactical superset.


Layout

React Native uses JavaScript and JSX for constructing the UI, whereas Flutter uses a widget style. Flutter widgets are premade, and the code is viewable so you can see how Google created all the widgets.

React Native and Flutter share common ground in constructing the layout in that they both use CSS Flexbox. However, they each implement it differently. But as long as you know Flexbox, there shouldn’t be an issue with building the layout for your app.


Performance

React Native and Flutter are open-source, meaning they are free to use. Both libraries are well maintained – exactly as you’d expect, considering Facebook and Google created them. You can test apps you create using both frameworks virtually through using a built-in simulator or natively on your phone. ,

If you intend to develop on iOS, you’ll need an Apple computer as the SDK is only available on Apple computers. However, with Android apps, you can develop them on any platform.

Both frameworks use hot reloading, so you can make changes and see them instantly. In return, this makes development more efficient as you don’t have to keep stopping and starting to see app updates. And overall, it makes the whole process seamless.


Developer ecosystem

The React Native ecosystem is more mature as it has a larger user base, with JavaScript being around since 1995. On the other hand, Flutter was only released in 2017, so the community is significantly smaller than React Native.

React is likely the most popular frontend framework at the moment and has an extremely active community across social media. A wider pool of React Native developers is a key advantage.


Advantages of React Native

  1. Hot reloading means faster coding and refreshing

  2. One codebase for two applications, covering both iOS and Android platforms

  3. Uses popular language, JavaScript

  4. More choice for developers

  5. Relative maturity

  6. An active community

  7. Easy to learn


Advantages of Flutter

  1. Hot reloading means faster coding

  2. One codebase for two applications, covering both iOS and Android platforms

  3. Faster apps

  4. An extensive range of design options

  5. Consistent app UI across devices


Choosing The Right Framework for App Development

The right framework can help you achieve business goals on time and within budget on your app development journey. But, in hand with that, the right developer will lead the way.

With an overview of each platform, the choice is in your hands – will you choose React Native or Flutter for your 2021 app development?

As React Native developers based in Queenstown, we create digital solutions for businesses and brands in New Zealand and Australia. Get in contact with us today, and let’s discuss your next app development project.